Last week we discussed a recent failed attempt to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, which failed to make it out of a committee after Gov. John Hickenlooper expressed doubts about the initiative. Despite a nationwide trend of falling support for capital punishment, it remains an option in Colorado for the time being.

The failed proposal to repeal the death penalty may have been helpful for James Holmes, the man facing charges for allegedly shooting and killing 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora last summer. He and his attorneys recently offered to plead guilty to the crime but the deal was rejected by prosecutors. They have decided to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors made the decision after consulting with victims of the shooting and the families of those who died. Prosecuting attorneys usually have the option to pursue the death penalty in cases where a defendant is accused of first-degree murder. First-degree murder includes a murder in which the killer acted deliberately and intending to cause the death of another person.

Because these charges require intent and deliberation, Holmes may be able to use the insanity defense to escape the death penalty. Holmes’ attorneys have not entered an insanity plea yet, he does have a history of seeking mental health care and he has been called “mentally ill” by his representatives.

The insanity defense Is one of many that criminal defendants can use to fight charges. Next week we’ll discuss some other defenses that may be available to defendants.

Source: The FindLaw Blotter, “James Holmes’ Plea Rejected, DA Seeks Death,” Andrew Lu, April 1, 2013

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